If the police arrest you on suspicion of drug possession or sales, you will likely face charges for a serious drug-related offense under Tennessee law. Many people fail to take first-time drug charges seriously, as they mistakenly believe that having small amounts of drugs is “no big deal.” In reality, any drug conviction can have serious and lasting consequences far into the future.
When you worry about a drug-related conviction, you may initially worry about the possibility of fines, probation, or time behind bars. You may not realize that the consequences of a conviction can reach far probation or jail a sentence, and the financial implications can continue long after your fines and court costs are paid. This is because a drug conviction can have lasting effects on your professional future.
Higher Education Opportunities
Drug possession charges are common among college students. While you may think a drug charge is a separate matter from your college attendance and academic performance, drug possession violates college codes of conduct, and your school may take disciplinary action against you based on your criminal case. Such action can include expulsion from your school, and you can find it difficult to gain acceptance to another institution.
Even if you are not expelled, drug activity can disqualify you from participating in collegiate athletics, which can also cause you to lose a substantial scholarship. Drug convictions can also render you ineligible for federal financial aid, upon which many students rely to attend college. Not finishing a college program can limit your opportunities in your intended professional field.
Finding a New Job
When you apply for a job, many companies will conduct a criminal background check as part of the application process. When a prospective employer learns you have a drug conviction on your record, they may decide not to hire you, despite your experience or qualifications for the position. This is especially true as most drug convictions are felonies in Tennessee, and many companies have policies against hiring convicted felons, even for a first-time offense. For this reason, a drug conviction can substantially limit your job opportunities and your ability to earn higher salaries.
Eligibility for a Professional License
Many careers require you to obtain and maintain a professional license. Such careers include:
- Doctors and dentists
- Commercial drivers
When a licensing board considers an applicant, they will often consider many aspects of their personal and professional history, including their criminal background. Criminal activity is often viewed as a negative factor when it comes to issuing professional licenses. For example, a drug conviction can cast doubt on your character and fitness to handle money or confidential information or on your reliability due to possible substance abuse issues.
Many government agencies, government contracts, or security companies require you to have some level of a security clearance. The process of obtaining a clearance is not an easy one, and many factors will be considered when determining whether to issue you a clearance to have access to confidential and sensitive information. One factor is your criminal background.
While a criminal conviction may not disqualify you from getting a security clearance on its own, it can work against you. According to the Department of Defense, some of the main reasons for a clearance denial include:
- Drug involvement
- Criminal conduct
- Personal conduct
As you can imagine, a drug conviction can be a strike against you when it comes to all of the above factors, making it more difficult to obtain or keep a security clearance.
Avoiding a Drug Conviction Whenever Possible
Even a first-time drug conviction can affect your professional life for years to come, often limiting your earnings and opportunities. This is only one of many reasons why you should avoid even a first conviction whenever you can. The right criminal defense lawyer will be able to identify ways to defend against your charges and avoid a conviction on your record, depending on the circumstances of your arrest and charges.
Some common defenses against drug charges include:
- 4th Amendment violations – Police cannot simply search you, your vehicle, or your home whenever they want, as the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. If police officers found drugs without a warrant or another legal justification for a search, a skilled defense attorney can argue that any drug evidence should be suppressed form your case.
- Challenging constructive possession – Drug possession charges can be based on actual possession (i.e., you had the drugs on your immediate person) or constructive possession (i.e., the drugs were in a place where you had access to control them, such as a shared apartment or vehicle). Prosecutors usually allege constructive possession based on circumstantial evidence, which an attorney can challenge.
- Forensic lab errors – In order to convict you of drug possession, a prosecutor must prove that the substance you possessed was an illegal drug. This is often accomplished by forensic lab testing and reports. Forensic lab technicians can make mistakes that render test results unreliable or inaccurate. Your attorney can provide evidence of possible errors to call drug evidence into question.
In addition to the above defenses, a defense lawyer can also look into the possibility of a diversion program such as drug court that keeps you out of jail and keeps a conviction off your criminal record. The best way to know your defense options is to discuss the specifics of your charges with a criminal defense law firm as soon as you can.
Contact an Experienced Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible
You should never risk an unnecessary or wrongful drug conviction by representing yourself. Even for first-time offenders, convictions can have long-term effects on both your professional and personal life. To ensure you obtain the best possible outcome in your drug case, you should consult with a qualified Knoxville criminal defense lawyer right away after an arrest. Attorney John Barnes regularly handles drug-related cases in Tennessee, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free case evaluation.